time exposed photo of headlights in urban center

Wernaa, Gitte

Core Faculty
Associate Professor and Elizabeth J. McCormack Chair in the Humanities
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
School of Undergraduate Studies
School Affiliation

School of Undergraduate Studies

Academic Focus

Critical thinking; modern and contemporary philosophy;  modern and contemporary religious thought; philosophy, art, and culture

Courses Taught
  • Foundations of Critical Thinking
  • Introduction to Philosophy Through Literature
  • Existential Philosophies
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Film

Ph.D.  University of Virginia Charlottesville, 2005  Dissertation: ”A Cage Went in Search of a Bird: Reading Repetitions in Kafka and Kierkegaard”

MA in Theology  1996  University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Graduate study -  Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, School for Overseas Students

BA in Theology  1995  University of Copenhagen, Denmark


The philosopher Kierkegaard once said that “life is lived forwards but understood backwards.”  Education, at its best, is a process where we come to understand our lives and become capable of intellectual empathy in regard to the lives of others, thus increasing the potential for creating better worlds.  To achieve this, we need to work on our thinking; we need to develop the ability to think about our thinking, we need to dare to think for ourselves and to think together, to become aware of the limits to our knowledge and the extent of our biases.  We must develop intellectual courage so we can engage multiple world views fairly, rationally, and imaginatively.

Professional Experience

1/03-5/04  Gettysburg College  Gettysburg, PA - Instructor, Department of Philosophy

5/01-7/01 University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA - Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies

8/99-5/01 Mary Washington College,  Fredericksburg, VA - Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Classics, Religion, and Philosophy

7/96-8/96  The Cultural University,  Copenhagen, Denmark    Lecturer

9/96-2/97 C.A. Reizetl's Publishers, Copenhagen, Denmark   Translator

Awards & Recognitions

National Learn & Serve Service-Learning Course Integration Grant     2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years: Grant used to develop and implement service-learning component in PHIL 105: Contemporary Moral Issues. Service-learning brought together work-release incarcerated people and undergraduate students in philosophical discussions pertaining to issues of crime and punishment.

Service-Learning Course Integration Grant; Interdisciplinary Grant     Summer 2004: Summer workshop participant in the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program.  This national program, based at Temple University, trains faculty to implement the Inside-Out model, which brings undergraduates (“outside students”) and incarcerated men (“inside students”) together in prisons within the context of a semester-long academic course focused on issues of criminal justice, ethics, prisons, and crime.

Danish Research Academy:  Four-year PhD grant for studies at the University of Virginia.

Dupont Fellowship:  One-year PhD grant for studies at the University of Virginia.

Knud Højgaards Fund :  One-year PhD grant for studies at the University of Virginia.

One-year grant for studies at Hebrew University.

Research & Publications

2013. “Turning Pedagogy Inside-Out: A Philosophical Exploration of Community-Engaged Learning in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Model” in Simone Weil Davis and Barbara Sherr Roswell (Editors). Turning Teaching Inside Out: A Pedagogy of Transformation. NY: Palgrave. Summer 2013.

2006. “Crossing the Same River Twice? Reading Kierkegaard’s Rhetorical Repetitions” Kierkegaard Yearbook. Pp. 129-143.

2000.  ”Abraham – Knight of Faith or Counterfeit?  Abraham Figures in Kierkegaard, Derrida, and Kafka”.  Kierkegaardiana, 21, pp. 19-35.

1999.  ”Encounter with the Other: A Matter of Im/Mediacy.  Levinas and Kierkegaard on the Other and Mediation”. Kerygma und Dogma, 45(4), pp. 307-316.

Selected Presentations

2010. “Before the Laws of Reading” presentation at the Endicott College’s conference on Allegory and the Crisis of Hermeneutics: Reading Beyond Belief, August, 2010.

2009. “The Horror of the Inexorable in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’” presentation at the Edgar Allan Poe and New England Conference, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Oct. 29, 2009

2006. “Lessons from Inside/Out: Justice in the Classroom” presentation given at the Justice Studies Association national conference, Berkley, CA. June 9, 2006.

2005. “Teaching Itself” presentation at the Elon Philosophy as Transformative Practice Seminar, Elon, NC, Oct, 2005.

2005. “Crossing the Same River Twice? Reading Kierkegaard’s Rhetorical Repetitions”, invited paper presentation at the International Kierkegaard Research Seminar, Copenhagen, Denmark, August, 2005.

2002.  “Harrowing Hermeneutics: Caputo’s Radical Hermeneutics in the Penal Colony”, presentation at the American Association of Religion (AAR) national conference, Toronto, CA, November 2002.

2002.  “Lindormens Skrig.  Skrift og Daemoni i M. A. Hansen, Kierkegaard og Kafka” [The Cry of the Serpent: Writing and the Demonic in M. A. Hansen, Kierkegaard and Kafka], invited paper presentation at the “Contemporary Research in the Writings of M. A. Hansen” Conference, Aarhus, Denmark, March.

2001.  “The Advantage and Disadvantage of A-Mimesis for Life”, presentation at American Association of Religion (AAR) national conference, Denver, CO, November.

2001.  “Let Me Repeat Myself.  Fictions of the Self in Kierkegaard’s Repetition”, invited paper presentation at the International Kierkegaard Research Seminar, Copenhagen, Denmark, August.

Professional Memberships & Affiliations
  • American Academy of Religion
  • Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy
  • Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education
  • The Kierkegaard Society (in America)
  • Kierkegaard Research Center’s conference association (in Denmark)
  • The Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program ( see description above)